2022-23 Missouri Wrestling

Tiger Insider: Mizzou In 'Important Time' Before Stretch Run

Tiger Insider: Mizzou In 'Important Time' Before Stretch Run

After a grueling start to 2023, Missouri is in the midst of a two-week break from competition before the Tigers begin the stretch run toward Tulsa.

Jan 18, 2023 by Ben Ramirez
Tiger Insider: Mizzou In 'Important Time' Before Stretch Run
After a gauntlet of competition over the last three weeks, the Missouri Tigers will finally welcome a two-week reprieve.

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After a gauntlet of competition over the last three weeks, the Missouri Tigers will finally welcome a two-week reprieve.

Beginning with a 28-11 win against #15 North Dakota State on December 20, the Tigers then made the long bus ride south to ring in the new year 10 days later at the Southern Scuffle. 

With the notable absence of its two top-ranked wrestlers, Mizzou placed third behind the Bison and Oklahoma State while claiming an individual title from Zach Elam at 285 pounds.

The Tigers then returned home to wrestle six days later against 13th-ranked Northern Iowa before finishing the swing at altitude in a two-day road trip at Air Force and Wyoming the following week.

The four wins over the last month keep Mizzou at a spotless 5-0 in Big 12 duals, topping the conference standings with two more wins than undefeated Iowa State.

Gearing Up For The Final Push

As February draws closer, the Tigers will look to get fully healthy and dialed in for the final five-week push to the NCAA Championships. With a couple weeks off before their next dual, Smith noted that he expects Zach Elam, the lone starter not who didn’t compete against Air Force or Wyoming, to be back in the lineup for the final three duals.

Smith intends to utilize the break in the action to work on physical conditioning, as well as being mentally ready to face the challenge ahead.

This late in the season, the team is looking for the small tweaks that may make the difference between losing in the blood round at the national tournament or finishing on the podium.

“If we can get a little bit better every day, we’re going to become an even better team,” Smith said. “It’s an important time.”

The road begins with a double-barrelled weekend in the Sooner State against Oklahoma on Feb. 3 in Norman and a showdown against #12 Oklahoma State on Feb. 5.

For the second straight year, #4 Iowa State will visit Hearnes Center to close the regular season on Feb. 15. The date lines up with the beginning of the Missouri high school wrestling the following morning across the street at Mizzou Arena, which allows the whole state wrestling community to be in attendance.

Smith believes that the maturity of his team has helped prepare them for this final leg of the season.

“When you’re prepared, you’re focused on the moves and the techniques you’re going to use (as opposed to external factors like the crowd or the weight of the moment),” Smith said. “That’s the mental part that we work on. Just focus on what you can do and go do it.”

Colton Hawks Continues To Make Strides Forward

After splitting time in the starting lineup for the first two months of the season, Hawks has become the go-to wrestler for the Tigers at 184 pounds.

The Wentzville native has gone 5-3 since the North Dakota State dual, including going 3-1 over the four dual starts including a second-period pin against Air Force on January 13. His lone loss came by 7-2 against All-American and defending Big 12 champion Parker Keckeisen.

Now in his third year with the program, Hawks is getting a taste of an extended stay in the lineup for the first time. Despite not having a high quantity of matches under his belt, Smith says he’s excited with the progress Hawks is showing.

“[Hawks] has the ability to put some points up and can ride really tough,” Smith said. “He has the ability to beat some of the best guys and that’s what we see. I see the improvements that he’s making every week. Into February and March, he’s going to make even bigger improvements and hopefully pull some big wins off and get a qualifying spot.”